I used to dream of living in a Hallmark movie – the twinkling lights, the pillow-soft snowdrifts, the endless trails of evergreens that quite literally sparkle beneath the stars. When I watched the movies, it felt like time slowed down for everyone in a way that made the "perfect" Christmas possible.
There were no shouting matches over the insane cost of air travel or which in-laws were staying where, teachers were stress-free and somehow had hours to spare after the school day to bake cookies and drink cocoa in shopping centers (as a former teacher, may I just say, I wish!). Not a single person seemed to feel even a little burdened by the weight of loneliness, let alone did they acknowledge the sadness that looms over so many of us as the holidays approach. In that cozy cottage, with silver bells ringing and carolers singing, the answer was easy: If you could clasp your hands around the Christmas Spirit, everything would become exactly what it should be. Perfect.
Oh, sisters, how I've learned what a dangerous deception this is to believers.
We long for Christmas to be the happiest time of year. Yet too often do we set our expectations sky-high only to watch them fall at our feet, leaving us feeling more burdened than we were before.
The simple truth is this: the "Christmas Spirit" is never enough to satisfy our wandering hearts.
Christian, let us fight the lie that happiness and circumstance are the "true" paths to joyful hearts. However hardened our hearts may feel, we continue to wait in anticipation for Christmas Day and prepare our hearts during this Advent season.
Let us rejoice with one another as we remember the true reason we even have a chance at joy: Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Light shining in the darkness.
For every moment darkness looms, His light will shine.
No fear, enemy, or circumstance on this earth will ever have the power to undo what the Lord has spoken and what He made true on that rugged cross. A cross that changed the world when it brought forth our salvation in the form of a sacrifice only Jesus Himself could offer us.
Over time, I have found comfort in studying the many names of God we find in Scripture, and if doing so has taught me anything, it's this: We have never been in this fight alone. We have not, and we never will serve a distant, cold god who cares nothing for our pain and misfortunes. We serve the loving and compassionate El-Roi.
El-Roi, the God who sees us.
There is nothing we could say or do that would cause the Father to turn His face from us, because more than two thousand years ago, in a single, heartbreaking moment, He turned His face from Jesus as He hung on the cross. At that moment, Jesus personally took on every sin we would commit against each other and against the One who made us, taking our punishment and paying the ultimate price for our salvation. We have a God who sees us. Every hard day, every shattered dream, every heartache. El-Roi cared so much for us that He gave up His only son so that one day, we could come home.
Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord is Peace.
In John 14:27, Jesus says, "Peace, I leave with you; my peace, I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, nor let them be afraid" (ESV). The word used in John 14:27is eir√©n√© (Œµ·º∞œÅ·ΩµŒΩŒ∑ŒΩ). Eir√©n√© describes a truly unique sort of peace, one that is in direct opposition with what our society claims will bring satisfaction. Where the world says we create our joy, our truth, and our happiness, Jesus tells us it is our Creator alone, through the sacrifice of His Son, who brings us true Œµ·º∞œÅ·ΩµŒΩŒ∑ŒΩ (peace). This peace cannot be shaken, nor can it be stolen, for it is firmly held in place by Jehovah-Shalom, who is also Jehovah Jireh.
Jehovah-Raah, the Lord My Shepherd.
How many times do we find ourselves confusing the eternal peace we are promised with the temporary highs of this world? So easily, we find our hearts swayed by promises of an "easier" life (a life like the one I used to dream of escaping to) when the reality is too much to handle. When our hearts are at their heaviest, how simple it is to turn our faces from the Father in search of something else.
Seeing those words right there on my computer screen, typing them one letter at a time, I could fall to pieces. But I don't. Because I know that even when my thoughts and my heart wander, I will never be forgotten by Jehovah-Raah. We don't just serve a King who is righteous and holy beyond compare, we serve a faithful, devoted Shepherd who has yet to abandon a single sheep in His flock. Psalm 23:4 is abundantly clear on this as it reads, "Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me." What's more, we are given courage to walk through every hardship knowing that we will face whatever it is with God by our side.
This Christmas, take heart in the knowledge that God is bigger than our burdens. God sees us, He shepherds us, and He brings us peace unlike anything we will ever find on our own.
Be joyful, Christians, for there is an indescribable Light shining through the darkness. Always.